King Herod's royal theater box discovered at Herodium

Jerusalem, Sept 16 (ANI): A royal box built at the upper level of King Herod's private theatre at Herodium has been unveiled, and it indicates the luxurious lifestyle favoured by the well-known Jewish monarch.

Prof. Ehud Netzer conducted the excavations at Herodium National Park at the eastern edge of Gush Etzion region, under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The theatre, first revealed in 2008, is located halfway up the hill near Herod's mausoleum, whose exposure in 2007 aroused worldwide attention.

According to Prof. Nezter, the highly decorated, fairly small theatre was built in approximately 15 BC, which was the year of the visit of Roman leader Marcus Agrippa to Judea, Emperor Augustus's right-hand man.

The royal box (measuring eight by seven meters and about six meters high) is the central space among a group of rooms attached to the upper part of the theatre's structure.

This impressive room likely hosted the king, his close friends and family members during performances in the theatre and was fully open facing the stage.

Its back and side walls are adorned with an elaborate scheme of wall paintings and plaster mouldings in a style that has not been seen thus far in Israel.

The style is known to have existed in Rome and Campania in Italy during those years.

This work, therefore, was probably executed by Italian artists, perhaps sent by Marcus Agrippa, who a year before his visit to Judea met Herod on the famous Greek island of Lesbos, said Netzer.

The room had a series of unique "windows" painted with "out folded" shutters on both side and various naturalistic landscapes within. They include scenes of the countryside, the Nile River and a nautical scene featuring a large boat with sails.

Some of these windows have survived intact on the walls, whereas others were found in fragments on the floor and are undergoing restoration in the Israel Museum's laboratory.

The data accumulated during the excavation proves that the theatre's lifetime was very short, less than ten years.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which plans on launching the first exhibition featuring the finds from Herod's grave in the upcoming year, financed and undertook the complicated preservation work on the royal box.

The royal box site at Herod's theatre will be opened to the public once a special protective structure is built around the room when the theatre itself undergoes a partial restoration. (ANI)

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